Lanky netminder Gord McRae did not resemble a gifted athlete but his quickness and stand-up style made him a useful backup for parts of five years with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1970s. "The Bird" also enjoyed success in college and the minors in a solid career.
Born in Sherbrooke, Quebec, McRae spent three years with the Michigan Teach Huskies. Undrafted and unsigned, he played 24 games for three different Eastern League franchises in 1970-71. The Leafs signed him as a free agent in December 1971 when he was excelling with the CHL's Tulsa Oilers.
After Toronto lost Bernie Parent to the WHA and Jacques Plante and Ron Low struggled in 1972-73, McRae was given an opportunity to play in the NHL. He posted a 7-3-0 record for the club then returned to the CHL where he led the league in appearances in 1973-74.
Late in the 1974-75 season, Toronto turned to the youngster again when faced with inconsistent goalkeeping. McRae was solid the last 20 games of the season and led the club to a first round upset win over the L.A. Kings in the first round of the playoffs. The next year, he was a steady back up to Wayne Thomas but lost his slot on the depth chart in 1976-77 when rookie Mike Palmateer burst on to the scene.
In 1977, he starred for the Dallas Black Hawks and was named to the CHL's first all-star team. He also led the league with a 2.71 goals against average and shared the Terry Sawchuk trophy with Yves Belanger for allowing the fewest goals in the league. McRae returned to Toronto and played 18 games as Palmateer's backup in 1977-78. He retired after helping the team enjoy its best year since 1967 under coach Roger Neilson